Coconut oil and chocolate brownies: the search for a new cleanser

Pure coconut oil from Up in the hill Cafe at Up in the hill

By Susie | Beauty
Posted May 31, 2013

Struggling uphill on the quaint, coconut-paved path, the unbearable heat was a reminder that noon in the Tropics is not the best time for a walk, and, actually, that old adage is true – only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Trudging further up, brilliant green undergrowth splaying out at either side of the narrow path, the cafe perched at the top of the hill had lost its appeal. Organic chocolate brownies made with home-grown cacao beans and a fresh coffee? An ice-cold lemonade, and a much-needed cooling dip in the sea were far more tempting.

Having read rave reviews of Up in the Hill‘s chocolate brownies, I was in fact lured to follow the curving route up to 330ft – the highest point on Isla Bastimentos, in Panama – by their pure virgin coconut oil. Deemed something of a nutrient-rich “wonder product” in the beauty world due to its anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties, and its ability to nourish parched skin, effortlessly remove eye make-up, and, apparently, tackle acne, I was keen to try this multi-tasking oil for myself. Not only that, but I’d run out of cleanser and everything I’d read suggested coconut oil would do just the job.

Feeding your skin: coconut oil as a cleanser

One of the reasons why coconut oil is cited as a particularly good facial cleanser is that it contains lauric acid, which has been shown to target bacteria on the skin, thus helping to keep blemishes at bay. And whilst it might seem strange to apply oil to your skin, particularly if it feels greasy and congested, oil can actually help to rebalance your skin, replacing sebum that has been stripped through cleansers and exfoliators. Rather than that tight, squeaky clean feeling, coconut oil leaves skin feeling soft and supple, and clean. And, no, provided you don’t saturate your skin, it won’t feel greasy – just remember that less is more with coconut oil.

Coupled with it’s anti-bacterial properties, coconut oil is really hydrating, so it’s ideal if your skin is feeling parched, and looks dull. If you’ve had a little too much sun exposure, or your skin is dry from the chilly weather, coconut oil will revive your skin in a flash.

From Up in the Hill’s farm to a bottle of virgin coconut oil

There are a fair few varieties of coconut oil available, with labels such as “natural” or “pure virgin,” and so on. The differences between the bottles on the shelves are that virgin coconut oils are made from fresh coconuts and undergo minimal processing, whilst non-virgin coconut oils tend to be made from dried coconuts or contain chemical preservatives – it’s best to read the labels to find out which one you’re looking at.

Out in Panama, Janette uses coconuts grown on her farm, and sourced from her neighbours, with the fresh coconuts going through a few stages to turn them from the tasty white pulp we snack on, to a clear oil with a delicious, fresh scent. Put simply, the coconut is grated and added to water; the oil that sits on top is scraped off to be bottled, and the leftover water is evaporated so as to separate the remaining oil from the water. Et voila! The coconut becomes a bottle of coconut oil. And because Up in the Hill’s organic farm is a thriving ground for exotic plants, some of these make their way into the oils too. Not too keen on the scent of coconut alone? Try one of the oils with ylang ylang, ginger or lemongrass.

Lemonade, brownies, and a bottle of coconut oil

Arriving at the little wooden gate that congratulates you on reaching the highest point on the island certainly brings with it a sense of achievement. Especially once you’re sat on one of the beautifully carved wooden chairs, staring at the glorious jungle and sea, and tucking into an ice-cold lemonade and fluffy chocolate brownie. Surrounded by palms and bright orange flowers, with the gentle clucking of chickens foraging in the garden, it’s easy to understand why Up in the Hill is such a popular spot.

And the coconut oil? It’s a marvellous, easy-to-use cleanser, and well worth the trip to the top of the hill.

5 ways to use coconut oil in your beauty regime
  1. Hydrating hair mask: apply to your hair and leave for 30 minutes (or longer); rinse, and shampoo and condition as normal.
  2. Facial cleanser: massage a small amount of oil all over your skin, adding more until you have a light film on your skin; gently wipe away the oil with a dry muslin cloth or flannel. I remove the oil in stages, working across each section of my face using sweeping movements so that I get it all; if I’m wearing eye make-up or foundation, I usually cleanse twice. There’s no need to rinse the residue off.
  3. Moisturiser for face/body: remember to use a little at a time, and allow the oil to absorb before adding more, otherwise your skin will feel very greasy!
  4. Tame fly-away hairs: warm a tiny amount of oil in your palms and smooth over your hair from root to tip.
  5. Eye make-up remover: apply the oil to a cotton pad and sweep across your eyes, being careful not to drag the skin. Or, gently massage the oil over closed eyes and remove with a dry cloth.

Coconut oil solidifies below 200C (680F) and can be used as a liquid or as a solid – to turn it from solid to liquid, simply rub it between your palms. If it’s in solid form, try starting with a pea-sized lump; if you’re using it in liquid form, try a coin-sized drop (around the size of a dime or 5 pence)

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